Workplace Confessions: Job Seeker Horror Stories

Juliana Casale

Employer branding has become a priority for many companies looking to hire in 2017. Why? When done right employer branding puts your company in a positive light and communicates how it’s a great place to work. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that some job seekers have had less than, shall we say stellar experiences with their prospective employers, and no amount of behind the scenes or team mascot photos can help.

Case in point, here’s an eye-opening job seeker story that is still making the rounds on social media:

(See the post here)

A PR fiasco of this magnitude could have been avoided through common sense and a little bit of empathy. Did Victoria’s questions really warrant this type of response?

In all fairness though, talent acquisition can be a rough, frustrating job.

Recruiters typically have to sift through stacks upon stacks of resumes and applications just to find a handful of promising candidates. And for hiring managers, they often don’t have the bandwidth to focus fully on screening and interviewing prospects because they’re busy juggling multiple other responsibilities related to their own role at their company.

Add in the fact that most cover letters basically sound the same, “Dear Hiring Manager… I saw your job post on Indeed and was excited to apply…” and most resume bullet points contain similar keywords (“detail oriented,” “team player”), and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed — and even jaded — over time.

However, regardless of circumstance, being respectful to potential candidates and interviewees should always be a recruiter’s number one priority, because the fact of the matter is that job seekers consider how they’ve been treated throughout the hiring process as a direct reflection of the company doing the hiring.

Not to mention, one bad experience can ruin any employer’s reputation, because — as you can plainly see from the example above — people talk.

Real Life Job Seeker Horror Stories

Today we’re sharing a few real-life cautionary tales, and how each bad experience could have been turned into a win for both the employer and the candidate.

Don’t let this happen to your company!


From Reddit:

The Horror Story

The interviewer seemed like she was barely paying attention. She would ask me a question then sort of stare into space until she didn’t hear my voice and then ask another question. Finally, she asked me if I have any questions for her. I asked what is a typical ‘day in the life’ of the position.

This woman went from 0 to pissed off in an instant. She ranted about candidates asking about hours worked and no one has any ambition. She was red in the face and there was spittle flying. As soon as I could get a word in I explained my question (which was not about starting and end times) and she calmed down as fast as she got angry and answered my question.

I left after that and sat in my car for a few minutes trying to figure out what just happened.

How It Could Have Been Avoided: Training

An interview should be a productive two-way discussion. If one person isn’t listening to the other, you’re bound to get some miscommunication — and in this case, a big misunderstanding. Odds are that if the company’s talent acquisition team had provided the interviewer with training on how to effectively screen interviewees, the candidate’s experience would have been much more positive.  

TL;DR: Train your employees on how to interview candidates.



From Quora:

The Horror Story

I was chased by an internal recruiter for one of those above mentioned companies [Facebook, Salesforce, and Twitter] and I went through the 7 interviews. The interviews were spread over a couple of months and as said, I was not not in a hurry. All through the process the recruiter was extremely pleasant and kind. I had a positive attitude and was flexible to accommodate for the different time-zone the interviewers and myself were in. My last interview was with a very senior person. The company’s recruiter called me after a couple of days, later in the evening (around 7pm) to tell me that they wanted to make an offer, and asked for my financial details. So far nothing weird. I decided to leave it until the morning to send my mail to him.. however he did pester me from 8am onwards asking to send my financial details to him.. which I did once I got to work.

After this he called me and changed the tune from being nice and kind to extremely aggressive… he probably did not expect me to earn the salary he saw in my mail. He started asking very patronising personal questions and told me that he would not disclose the figure they intended to offer me… unless I said “Yes to the job” on the spot. When I protested and said this is a ridiculous notion, as NOBODY agrees to take a job blind (i.e. without even seeing a scrap of an offer detailing the salary and major terms and conditions), he put the ball in my court saying that I needed to think about the job and send him a mail if I was still interested.

At that point I was so disgusted by his attitude that he made me see the company in a completely different light… however, as a matter of principle, I decided to go ahead and see what they were going to offer me. At the end of the day, I did the prescribed 7 interviews and even travelled to their HQs here for the ever-last meeting.

As of today (more than one week on) I still do not have an offer nor a polite email from him.. quite a change from the days when he used to call every couple of days.

I have to say if this how a Fortune’s top company and much glorified cool place to work behaves… well I won’t be joining them anytime soon.

How It Could Have Been Avoided: Transparency

Transparency is the key to building trust with potential employees, and this “Fortune top company” blew their credibility by playing negotiation games instead of being upfront about compensation. Rather than waiting weeks to discuss salary, they could have posted an actual figure (or a range) off the bat and saved both the candidate and everyone involved in the 7-interview (!) process time, mental energy, and money.

TL;DR: Include a salary with your job description — or at least a range.


From LifeHacker:

The Horror Story

I was graduating soon and had an interview as a software developer. The first part was a phone interview. I did well on that which earned me a take home “assignment”. It was a bit tricky since it was decently big task and I had a full school schedule along with other interviews. I finished that working off and on for a week. That got me an onsite interview. If you’re not familiar with onsite interviews for software developers they last 2-6 hours and you interact with several people. So I drove 2 hours in traffic to get to this place and interviewed with 3 different people for over 3 hours.

Overall it went really well. I felt good about the company and about how I did. Not soon after I got a call from the recruiter letting me know I did great and they wanted to move forward. She explained that every new applicant speaks with the head of engineering and CEO. This was mostly a formality and was more about getting to know you. I ended up chatting with head of engineering a few weeks later and it went well too. We hit it off and I pretty much felt like it was in the bag.

So I setup a meeting with the CEO, which would only be about 10 minutes. I meet with the CEO and we’re chatting. He was nice and friendly and things were going great. He asks me to tell him about myself. So I did. All of a sudden his demeanor and attitude changed. He became condescending and aggressive in his questions, usually not giving me enough time to answer. The whole experience left me in shock (and I had another interview somewhere else nearby).

Turns out he’s a bit of an elitist. I graduated for a top ranking CS university, my grads were good, I was VP of a tech related club on campus, I was working two programming jobs for professors, and did well during a rigorous interview process. None of that matter because I was a transfer student from a community college. The fact that I did my general education at a community college seemed to deem me unworthy to work there.

How It Could Have Been Avoided: Setting expectations

Everyone who is involved in the interviewing process should be aligned on what they’re looking for in terms of education, experience, and skill set — and if there are any deal breakers that come from the top, the talent acquisition team should apply those requirements to the sourcing process. Ideally, the CEO in this story would have been more open to candidates from a diverse background… but that’s not something that can be solved by a blog post.

TL;DR: If leadership is involved in the final decision on a candidate, get them involved in setting requirements upfront.

Have you ever had a particularly terrible phone screen or interview? Share them with us @kununu_US so we can learn from your bad experience!


Juliana is the Director of Marketing at ReferralMob, where she’s on a mission to matchmake job seekers with great local companies who are hiring. She has been featured as a guest on Jay Acunzo’s “Unthinkable” podcast, and her writing has appeared on Social Media Today, iMedia Connection, and LinkedIn Pulse. You can find her musings on startups, marketing, and various goings-on in Boston by following her on Twitter @attackofthetext.